POWERFUL WOMEN IN POLITICS
29th, March, 2013
In most world countries, the participation of women in politics has been a controversial issue in the past decades. Most countries denied women the right to vote and to hold political office. Today, this has changed, as more women are encouraged to participate in politics (Stokes 2005). However, although women no longer struggle to gain recognition in politics, as well as practicing their right to vote, their level political participation today remains low (UNDP 2011: Hatman 1999). The number of women in the political sphere is evidence of women under-representation. The political sphere today is male dominated, as shown by the high numbers of males participating in politics (Lawless & Fox 2012). In the USA, women account for only 16.6 percent of congress. On the other hand, women make up only 8 percent of the mayors of the nation’s largest cities. Similarly, Britain registers lower representation of women in politics, compared to the U.S.A. (PressTVGlobalNews 2011). Globally, in July 2006, women accounted for 17 percent of parliamentarians worldwide, and a woman headed the government in only seven countries (UNICEF, 2007). According to Anne, Deckman, and Swers (2011), the under-representation of women in politics is not blamed on legal restrictions, but probably on the bias of voters and parties, which favor the male politicians. Nonetheless, despite women under-representation in politics, a number of women in different countries have risen in the political scene, with impeccable performance, which is responsible for their influence in the politics of their countries and the world.
In 2011, the Forbes Magazine published a list of the most powerful women in the world. Among the first top five most powerful women in the list, three were female politicians. The most powerful woman in politics was considered to be Angela Merkel, who “. . . directly controls the $2.9 trillion GDP of Germany and influences the $14.8 trillion economy of the European Union” (Goudreau 2011, para. 2). Besides being the first female chancellor of Germany, Merkel is also the party leader of Christian Democratic Union in Germany. She has held this political office in Germany since 2005, and re-elected in 2009. Merkel is also responsible for overseeing the operations of the Eurozone, ensuring stability, and unification of the members. In addition, the stabilization of the European Union is one of her core duties. This makes Germany the only country among the top largest economies of the world to be headed by a female leader (Gedmin 2013).
Hillary Clinton, the U.S.A. secretary of state, is considered the second most powerful woman politician today. She holds the fourth position after the president of the U.S.A and serves as a world ambassador of the world’s largest economy. Hillary Clinton is among the few women in the U.S.A. who have attempted to run for presidency in the country. She is popular in the U.S.A and across the globe for advocating for women issues and education, as well as development, which are among the top interests and policies of the U.S.A (Goudreau 2011).
Another powerful woman in politics today is Dilma Rousseff, the 36th president of Brazil. She has been in office since January 2011. She is the first female to head the Brazilian government. While serving as the Minister for Energy and Chief of Staff, Rousseff made a big achievement, saving approximately 24 million people in the country from utter poverty. Today, she is faced with a larger responsibility ahead of the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games, which are to be hosted by her country (Goudreau 2011). Although Rousseff owns her success to Mr. da Silva, the former Brazilian president, most analysts have credited her for the economic reforms in the country, especially her concern for the low-income families in Brazil (Torregrosa 2010).
On the other hand, Michelle Bachelet, the first female president of Chile is also popular in her country for advocating for women rights, thus breaking down the barrier for females in the country. She was also given the responsibility of heading the UN agency of UN Women, mainly because of her concern and advocacy for women issues (Torregrosa 2010). Similarly, Cristina Fernandez, the president of Argentina is also a powerful female politician today. In Argentina, Cristina is popular for advocating for the rights of gay people and same-sex marriage in the world, and in her country. She is an assertive and out-spoken president, known for criticizing and pushing for reforms in the International Monetary Fund (IMF). In addition, she is also well known for developing economic policies in her country. As the president, she developed financial ties between her country and other countries, thus, boosting the economy of Argentina (Torregrosa 2010).
Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, the 24th president of Liberia is another influential female politician today. She is popular for winning the Nobel Prize for peace and Goodwill Ambassador for Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene in the African continent (Forbes 2012). She has also spearheaded different reforms in her country, mainly to strengthen the economy. Similarly, being the first female president of Costa Rica, Laura Chinchillla is an influential woman in the politics of her country. Previously, she had served as the country’s vice president, as well as a Minister of Justice. However, her government has faced various economic blows, making her less popular, compared to other female politicians, based on performance (Forbes 2012).
There are other many influential female politicians in the world, apart from those mentioned. These include leaders of political parties in their countries such as Sonia Gandhi, who is the president of the Indian National Congress Party. On the other hand, women have taken on the executive position of Prime Minister in their countries, and such include Julia Gillard, the Prime Minister of Australia, and Yingluck Shinawatra, the Prime Minister of Thailand. Most of female leaders in politics have proved their capability of good leadership.
Few women participate in politics today compared to men. However, among those few women in politics, some have shown great leadership capability, with regard to their performance and influence in their countries, as well as the world. All the female politicians holding reputable positions in their governments are therefore, evidence that women are capable of political leadership. Most of these female politicians have performed impeccably in their roles, through their power of skilled decision-making. This signifies that, if voters and political parties were not biased against women, more women in politics would possibly lead to more positive changes in their countries.
Anne, J., Deckman, M. & Swers, M 2011, Women and Politics: Paths to Power and Political Influence, New York, Longman.
Forbes 2012, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Viewed 29 March 2013 <http://www.forbes.com/profile/ellen-johnson-sirleaf/#>
Gatrell, C 2008, Embodying Women’s Work, McGraw-Hill International, London.
Gedmin, J 28 March 2013, Gedmin: Angela Merkel is the most powerful woman in the world, Viewed 29 March 2013 <http://www.newsday.com/opinion/oped/gedmin-angela-merkel-is-the-most-powerful-woman-in-the-world-1.4930212>
Goudreau, J 29 August 2011, World’s Most Powerful Women in Politics, Forbes, Viewed 29 March 2013 < http://www.forbes.com/sites/jennagoudreau/2011/08/29/worlds-most-powerful-women-politics-hillary-clinton-angela-merkel-michele-bachmann/>
Hatman, M 1999, Talking Leadership: Conversations With Powerful Women, Rutgers University Press, New York
Lawless, J. & Fox, R 2012, Men Rule: The Continued Under-Representation of Women in the U.S. Politics, Women & Political Leadership, School of Public Affairs, Viewed 29 March 2013 < http://www.american.edu/spa/wpi/upload/2012-Men-Rule-Report-web.pdf >
PressTVGlobalNews 2011, Women in Politics – Women’s World-11-16-2011, Viewed 29 March 2013 < http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l-gYjSxODCg>
Stokes, W 2005, Women in Contemporary Politics, Polity, London.
Torregrosa, L 28 September 2010, A Woman Rises in Brazil, New York Times, Viewed 29 March 2013 <http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/29/world/americas/29iht-letter.html?ref=dilmarousseff>
UNDP 2011, Press Release, UN, New York.
UNICEF 2007, The State of the World’s Children: Women and Children: The Double
Dividend of Gender Equality. UN, New York.
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